12-6 Advent Devotional

Remember

Allison Byerley

Nehemiah 9:1-3, 9-15

In the TV show “Blindspot” a woman emerges from a duffle bag in Times Square, covered in enigmatic tattoos that are clues to crimes and criminals. However, she has amnesia. Her past is a mystery and living without a past impacts her present and her future. She desperately wants to know who she is, to have an identity.

The people of Israel have spiritual amnesia. In the decades of exile, they lost their connection to the stories of Israel and how God delivered and preserved them. As Nehemiah leads them in the rebuilding of Jerusalem, he also has to help them recover their spiritual memory, to know who God is and what God has done. The people gather and hear their history with God, beginning with creation. Today, they remember God hearing their cry when they were slaves, God’s deliverance, and God’s care in the wilderness. Remembering gives them identity and purpose.

Do we have spiritual amnesia in this season? Advent is a time to remember why Jesus, though in the form of God, emptied himself and became human. As we wait for the Christ child to be born, remember how God has acted and is acting among us. Advent reminds us of our identity in Christ, whose we are and who we are. Remember and share the story and yourself with someone this Christmas.

Rev. Dr. Allison Byerley is the Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Hawkins, TX.

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 

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12-5 Advent Devotional

Home

Jo Mead

Ezra 1:1-11

Nehemiah 9:1-3, 4-8

     What does it mean to go home? And who gets to go home? The Folger’s coffee commercials for the holidays can always bring me to tears. Someone travels all night to get home to the family for the holiday. Tears are shed as the family realizes they are together once more.

But what does it mean to each of us to think about going home/finding home? Have we made lives and found community in the place that once was new and unknown? What does it mean to leave your place of exile which has become home? How was it that this place that once was strange is now comfortable?

My prayer is that you know your home. Your community has claimed you as well as you claiming it. There are people surrounding you to help you make your way in the world. That even King Cyrus will come to help you on your journey by giving you that which were always yours to claim. It is unexpected that even the King lends a hand to restore rightful ownership. And yet, he hands you the treasures you seek this season: hope, love, joy and peace.

In this season of waiting my hope is that you carry with you the silver and gold of belonging. And that you know your place in the kingdom of love.

 

Jo Mead is a pastor in Wichita, Kansas. She loves to laugh and find fun.

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

12-4 Advent Devotional

Coming Home

Jessica McCrae

Joel 2:12-13, 28-29

 Every December feels like a homecoming to me.  I think it goes back to the first year I left home, to go to university.  There was always an excitement building as I crossed final assignments and exams off my to do list, knowing I was going home soon. Now, I still feel like I’m getting ready to go home, even when I’m travelling nowhere. But that is what advent is all about, the act of preparing and planning and waiting to come home again to Bethlehem, to come home again to God’s love being born again into our lives.  In the reading for today, Joel reminds us that wherever the previous year has taken us, no matter how broken and bruised we may be when we reach that sable door, we can come home.  Our God is abounding in steadfast love, and like the warmest of homes, we will be showered in love and our dreams encouraged.

This Advent as you pour a cup of tea or a glass of wine, consider what you need to prepare in order to return to home to God, to receive the love God is pouring out for you.

 

Rev. Jessica McCrae is with the United Church of Canada and the minister of Humbercrest United Church in Toronto, Ontario.

 

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

12-3 Advent Devotional

Wisdom

Allison Byerley

Daniel 2:20-23

 

 Nebuchadnezzar has set an impossible task. He’s had a disturbing dream and he wants his magicians, enchanters, or anybody to tell him what the dream was and interpret it, or, to put it another way, to read his mind and then explain the dream. If they can’t do both, they will be torn limb from limb. Not surprisingly, no one takes him up on the challenge!

That sends the king into a fury, and he decides to kill them anyway. They are about to be executed when Daniel steps in to save the day. Well, God through Daniel saves the day.

Before revealing the dream and its meaning, Daniel starts with a word of praise. He knows who has given him the answer to the king’s demand and Daniel, ever faithful, boldly proclaims that wisdom and power are God’s to give, that God reveals hidden things, and Daniel thanks and praises God.

Comedian Stephen Colbert famously invented the word “truthiness,” which is defined as the preference for facts that one wishes or believes to be true rather than those known to be true. We live in a truthiness world with true wisdom in short supply. Daniel reminds us where true wisdom is to be found. God gives wisdom and understanding, which may seem foolishness to the world. God’s wisdom reminds us that the meek inherit the earth and the cross, emblem of death, is life to those who are being saved.

Let us prepare to receive God’s wisdom, embodied in his Son, who came as one of us to show us the fullness of God’s love and grace.

Rev. Dr. Allison Byerley is the Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Hawkins, TX.

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

12-2 Advent Devotional

Desolate but not Hopeless

Catherine Belles

Daniel 9. 20 – 27

Psalm 80.1-3, 14-19

Daniel 9 is midway through a series of visions; ferocious battles in which the Israel is divided and the people scattered before monsters. Daniel, the righteous teacher of the Qumran community, turns to the Lord with a prayer of supplication and traditional mourning posture; fasting, sackcloth and ashes. It is a prayer of “open shame” which “…falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you.” Daniel’s prayers are heard; Gabriel brings the gift of “wisdom and understanding” to explain the vision. However, as it is in explaining a parable, explaining the vision makes it more obscure with an unnamed prince, troops, destruction of the city and sanctuary, flood and war. This is not a word of comfort and joy. Daniel mourns the struggles of Israel’s people until God’s final judgment on the “desolator”

We wait… for God…for the Word made flesh, yet, this is The King coming in judgment of those who temporarily wield power; princes and troops. Only those in covenant with God will survive. The desolator, those who destroy, will be destroyed. We are waiting, certain the day of “the decreed end” will come.

 

Catherine Belles, a pastor of two rural north central Iowa churches, Eden Presbyterian in Rudd and First Presbyterian in Greene, Iowa. 

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

12-1 Advent Devotional

Vision of Daniel

Chris Deacon

Daniel 7:1-14

  Daniel was a prophet when Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonian Empire.  He and many others were exiled into captivity.  In captivity, he served Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, all while remaining faithful to the one true God.

Daniel had seen his home invaded, his kingdom overthrown, and his people exiled.  He now has served several foreign kings.  Having seen kingdoms fall and kings die, he knows, all too well, about the frailty of human rulers, kingdoms, and empires.  He has a vision of one who appeared human, but answered to God.  He has a vision of one who will have dominion over all people, all nations, all the earth.  Unlike earthly kingdoms, this kingdom will not be conquered by foreign powers or even by death.  This kingdom will be eternal.

As we celebrate Advent, we wait for the time for Christ to come again.  We remember that no matter what happens in our earthly kingdom, we wait for the advent of the heavenly kingdom.  We wait for that “everlasting dominion that shall not pass away.”  We celebrate the “kingship…that will never be destroyed.”  Earthly countries and political leaders will rise and fall, we serve the one who is will not fall, will not let us down, and will not end.

 

Rev. Chris Deacon is a pastor in the PC(USA). He is currently serving the United Parish of Bowie in Bowie, Md, outside of Washington D.C.

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

11-30 Advent Devotional

Not Here

Julie Holm

Psalm 90

 I wonder as I wander out under the sky

how Jesus our Savior was born for to die

for poor ordinary people like you and like I.

 

Psalm 90 lingers and provides a meditation on the shortness of life, and on death.   Returning to dust, swept away like grass, wasting away, living at best to be 70 or 80.   A strange, strange topic for the beginning of Advent.   But Advent, and Christmas, are linked irretrievably to Good Friday, and Good Friday and Easter are linked irretrievably to Advent.

The gift of Salvation, which many Christians link to the cross, and the cross only, is given to us as much in the incarnation.  It is as much a gift of the Word who comes to dwell with us, who comes to be fully human, that we might be raised ourselves.  The One who lived life with such integrity that the Roman Empire felt they had no choice but to execute him, the One who was raised, that One was once the child in a manger, the man baptized by John, the prophet teaching on the hill, the resister shutting down the temple by upturning the tables.   It is all tied together.

Glenn Burlegh hightlighs this in his Christmas Cantata, Born to Die.  My brother Peter Hamm wrote a beautiful song at Christmas that used the words we know from the Easter story, He is not Here.  Starting with the shepheds and ending at the tomb, Peter brought together the life of Jesus, the salvation we wait for, into a whole.   So as we wait for the birth, let us feel free to still meditate on death.

Listen to He Is Not Here at:

Rev. Julie Holm pastors the Brush Valley Fusion of Faith in Rebersburg and Madisonburg, PA:  St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, St. Peter’s Lutheran (ELCA) and Christ United Church of Christ. She also edited this booklet.

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.